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Inspiration can come in the most unusual of
places.

For Toru Iwatani, his greatest, most popular
creation of all time, came from somewhere entirely unexpected.

Sat in a restaurant, trying to come up with
a brand new video game idea, Toru glanced

down at his lunch, a pizza.
Just like that, he’d created one of the
most iconic games characters of all time.

Toru Iwatani wanted to make something special.
Arcade games were all the rage, but they all
seemed to be far too similar.

Shooters were in fashion in a bit way after
Space Invaders, and it seemed like every other

cabinet Toru came across featured some kind
of space element, and far too many guns.

He didn’t like this.
Video games were getting too formulaic, and
only really reaching a single demographic.

Wouldn’t it be fun to have a game that people
of all ages could play and enjoy?

Something that families could play together,
as they sat casually in a public space.

A game which, instead of solely appealing
to dedicated teenage boys, would be fun for

women and children to casually approach, without
any existing knowledge of how to play games,

or what to expect.
Toru found himself pondering this one day
in a restaurant.

He ordered a pizza, and as he snacked, he
looked around at his fellow patrons – everyone

was sitting, chatting, and enjoying food together.
He noted that he’d seen an increasing number
of arcade machines in restaurants and cafes

like this.
People liked to sink a few casual coins into
a machine while doing other things – it

was this setting that attracted the widest
possible audience, not smoke-filled arcades

with dark walls and neon lights that only
appealed to teenage boys.

What if, Toru thought, there was a game that
felt more at home in a coffee shop than an

arcade?
A colorful, bright game, about something fun,
that had universal appeal?

And then, the idea hit him.
He should make a game about eating, where
players had to munch as much food as possible!

It would be perfect!
It would fit the mood of a restaurant or a
casual coffee house.

Players could snack together as they played
a game about snacking!

But what game character would perfectly symbolize
this eating process?

What should his protagonist look like?
Toru looked down.
There, in front of him, was a half-eaten pizza.
That was it!
That was the shape!
Toru was thrilled.
After all, if he squinted a bit, his half-eaten
pizza even looked like the Japanese character

for mouth!
And so, Toru set to work.
At first, his game developers thought he was
crazy.

They weren’t sure why Toru was insisting
on such a strange design, and why he refused

to accept any alternatives.
They showed Toru suggestions for more complex
characters – after all, the game engine

could support them – but Toru would not
be moved.

His new game would feature a half-eaten pizza
as a protagonist, and nothing else was acceptable.

For enemies, Toru decided to create colorful
characters that were inspired by Saturday

morning cartoons.
He figured that a collection of bright, dynamic
enemies, would make the experience more enjoyable,

and would give people more reason to stop
in a busy arcade to see what was going on.

He also liked the idea of using villains that
couldn’t be killed.

This game was going to be light, and fun,
and it wouldn’t feature a hero who murders

he way through opponents.
Instead, ghosts could easily respawn, without
their deaths feeling violent.

Toru decided on a variety of different fruits
as bonus items in the game – they fit the

food theme, and also added extra color to
the screen.

He also started crafting cutscenes to reward
the player with.

These little animations served to give players
something to strive for, as well as making

the game look more appealing from afar.
And so, Pac-Man was born.
It turned out that Toru was right about everything
– the simple character design made it easy

for players to identify and sympathize with
Pac-Man, and the cabinets drew a wider audience

than just the teenage shooter fans that filled
most arcades.

Pac-Man went on to become one of, if not the,
most recognizable character in video games,

and his debut title spawned a wave of similar
titles, spin-offs, and pop-culture references.

So what’s the moral here?
Well, it’s important to remember that inspiration
can strike in the strangest of places.

No matter where you are, or what you’re
doing, be ready for a good idea to appear.

You never know when you might come up with
the perfect plan to succeed at whatever it

is you’re trying to achieve in life.
Perhaps, most importantly of all, never underestimate
the value of a good meal.

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Pac-Man: The Story of Toru Iwatani and the Pizza That Revolutionized Arcade Games

195 Folder Collection
Amy.Lin published on August 9, 2017
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